“Big Girl, Small Town” Book Review

Every time I’m done reading a book, I check out the Goodreads reviews to see what other people thought. Most of the time, my feelings about a book are about the same as the other posted reviews. However, for “Big Girl, Small Town,” this was not the case. So, I think it might be an example of being the totally wrong reader for this book.

The book follows the protagonist, an Irish woman in her late 20s named Majella. She lives in a small town (the same place she grew up) in Ireland where virtually every day is the same for her (which is the way she likes it). Her dad disappeared when she was young and her grandmother has just been murdered. She lives with her addict mother and tries to scrape by with her job at the local fish and chips shop. 

Each section begins with a list of things Majella hates. To me, this gave a false tone of more of a YA novel, even though there’s nothing else that lends itself to that genre. The story is told over the course of just a few days, but because Majella likes routine, it felt to me like I was reading about the same day of her life over and over again. The Irish dialect is a little tough to read, which felt a little frustrating and definitely slowed down my reading pace. But my main complaint is that it felt like there was no plot. It is stated that the grandmother was murdered but there’s virtually no information about this during the entire book. There’s no climax, no resolution – the ending of the book just kind of trails off. There are also descriptions of Majella’s romantic encounters (where there is absolutely no romance) – this element of the book just made her story feel a little sordid instead of authentic. Above all, I just found no joy in reading anything about Majella’s story. I’m not someone who needs their protagonist to be likeable but I couldn’t even find a tiny bit of her character to relate to.

Now, after reading other reviews, many readers stated that Majella was on the autism spectrum and this is why she has some idiosyncrasies in her behavior. I must be dense because I didn’t pick up on this at all. Even knowing this information, my opinion of the character isn’t really altered because I never felt like I truly understood where Majella was coming from.

So, maybe this book just wasn’t meant for me. I would have loved more information about the family dynamics in Majella’s life (especially her relationship with her grandmother) and it would have felt so gratifying to have some events take place to shake up Majella’s routine or her journey. Instead, I just felt like I was reading a one-note description of a day in a young woman’s life who actually hates pretty much every element of her existence. Not sure why other readers fell in love with this one, but it just completely missed the mark for me.

2 stars

*Free ARC provided by Netgalley and Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review*

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